Pgh on Hate Crimes

 I completely missed this.  The Post-Gazette ran an editorial on May 21 opposing extending federal hate crimes legislation to include sexual orientation and gender identity.

At the end of the day, we are troubled by making distinctions that implicitly give a greater importance to one crime over a similar one simply because of the motivation of the perpetrators (a determination that has a Thought Police aspect to it) or because of how one victim can be categorized demographically.

The same desire that moves us to support equal treatment of all — men and women, black and white, gay and straight — also propels us to think that an assault is an assault, a murder is a murder and that crimes should be prosecuted without making invidious distinctions in the eyes of the law, before whom all should stand equal.

In an ideal world, that's nice.  Was Tony Norman off on this day?  Because no one claims that the murder of a heterosexual white Catholic male is less devastating and horrific than the murder of a person who is African-American, Jewish or gay.  But very rarely is that individual murdered with the intent of creating a chilling effect on the larger minority community. 

Expanding federal jurisdiction is necessary to ensure fair and equal treatment of crimes motivated by hate, especially when state and local authorities can't or won't investigate or prosecute.  How an editorial board so in touch with the modern trend of states abridging basic civil protections of the LGBTQ community can fail to see the need for this protection is beyond me.  Remember when states refused to investigate voting discrimination against African-American citizens?  Remember when states wouldn't let black students in public schools?  Why was federal intervention okay in those instances, but not when it comes to queers and trannies?

I sure as hell don't trust Pennsyvania to do a good job investigating hate crimes against LGBTQ citizens.  At least not all of Pennsylvania.  Most of our so-called Democratic legislators from Western Pennsylvania voted for amending the constitution to protect marriage from the queers before they voted against it.  Politically expedient for their careers, but a clear message to us here in da' burgh that we cannot count on anyone to respect and value us as full and equal citizens in the Commonwealth. 

Or how about the now and future Sheriff of Allegheny County telling a crowd of gay people that there really aren't any problems around gay issues for local law enforcement, even after 20+ years on the Pittsburgh police force.  Do you think he's going to be receptive to a hate crime investigation when a transexual prostitute is beaten to a bloody pulp in South Park?  Hmmm ….I know that would be the County Police, not the Sheriff but the point is about his attitude, not his jurisdiction.  He's a law enforcment leader and should be setting the bar high for protecting all residents of the County.

For a clear analysis on the revision of the federal hate crimes legislation, check out what the YWCA has to say here.  The Southern Poverty Law Center has some other interesting stuff. 

Back here in Pittsburgh, two letters to the editor about Hate Crimes legislation moving through the federal level.

Robert Timm of Mt. Lebanon agrees with the Post-Gazette.

I can't seem to find the difference between murder. Why is there a difference between the murder of a white, a minority or a homosexual person? If they were all murdered by the same person, why should one be treated any differently than the other two?

In my opinion they are all the same. Hate is hate, and should be handled according.

Timm doesn't seem to get that it is not the crime, but the motivation for the crime that's at stake.  No one is suggesting going easier on crimes against the majority population.  If a serial murdered kills a random group of people, the death of the homo is not greater than the death of the hetero.  But when a group of frat boys target and beat up a young man because he is gay, they are trying to send a message to gay people.  Why is that so hard to understand?

Ian S. Thompson of Baden seems to get it.  It is about the crime, not the value of the victim. 

While all Americans — men and women, black and white, gay and straight — should be treated equally under the law, the same cannot be said for crimes. While it would certainly be easy to simply say that one murder is as awful and should be treated the same as any other murder, the facts do not bear this out.

When a young man is viciously beaten and left to die in the cold and isolation of an October night in Wyoming simply because he is gay, that crime has ramifications far beyond its own awful brutality.

Hate crimes by their very nature aim to instill terror within an entire community. While one person may be left with the physical wounds and scars of an attack, similar people from across a community, state or even country are left to wonder if they could be next.

Hate crimes are about isolating, silencing and making people cower in the corners. The Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act is a good bill and should be signed into law.

Amen, brother.


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